*warning - this will be LONG*
The Walking Dead is a very difficult game to review because you have to take the game in two different ways. The first way is on an individual level, which is that it is five separate short video games connected by a single narrative but capable of standing on their own. The second is taking the game as a whole, which shows how all of these individual episodes relate. Both methods have their appeals and, ironically, expose strengths and weaknesses which would otherwise not be readily apparent.
Taken as a whole, The Walking Dead is a tragedy which has the courage to go places many zombie stories don't. Night of the Living Dead was one of the few stories to end on a complete downer as virtually all sequels and movies inspired by it tend to have at least a few survivors.
The Walking Dead ends on a note of hope with the survival of Clementine but, virtually, the entire rest of the group is wiped out and the only two other survivors are ones we barely got to know. The protagonist, Lee, is the most distressing casualty as he dies handcuffed to a radiator either from being bitten or getting shot in the head by Clementine as an act of mercy.
Usually, the protagonist dying in video games [censored] me off. It was irritating as hell in Fallout 3 before the Broken Steel expansion and doubly so with Mass Effect 3. The internet broke with the latter. Here, however, I can't think of an ending which would feel more authentic. The emotional journey and constant death wore my Lee down so that when he passed, it was because he didn't have enough juice to continue.
|The tragedies just keep piling up.|
By the time Clementine is kidnapped, he's already one of the titular Walking Dead. He's only moving one foot forward at a time for Clem's sake. It's an astounding journey that wouldn't work as a single narrative but works very well with the Five Act structure. We get the Redemption of Lee Everett, the Rise of Lee Everett, and the Fall of Lee Everett all over again.
I could sit here talking all about the game and its various decisions so I'll just hit some of the highlights:
Episode One: The initial survival situation is a nice baptism by fire. The game always let's you get to know the characters before it kills them. The police officer transferring you to prison, Shawn Greene, and Doug (does anyone not save Carley?) are all killed in brutal ways but only after you see they're decent human beings. I didn't much care for the police officer, thinking he was patronizing, but I understood him.
Doug I didn't care as much about as Carley but I think he and my Lee could have been friends. I think there were too many cameos in this episode, though, with Glenn being completely unnecessary. I thought it was hilarious he was thinking with his libido the entire time but it stretched credibility to have him, Hershel, and someone who was supposed to be Lilly from the comics. The ending was great, though, with the power turning off at the motel being both humorous as well as foreboding.
Episode Two: My least favorite of the five missions, Episode Two is the lightest of the five episodes in my opinion. Despite the fact it deals with a pair of serial killer hillbilly cannibals, I can say that since I live in Kentucky and know some, the only people who die are Mark (who gets a form of posthumous revenge) and Larry who was an [censored].
The episode is so over the top that it's hard to take seriously. It's fairly early in the apocalypse too so I had a bit of trouble believing the Saint John Brothers would have reverted to cannibalism so quickly, especially with the giant corn field outside. Despite this, Episode Two had some great moments. "Eat up, Larry" being something I wish I'd done. I didn't kill either of the brothers because my Lee was desperate to leave his past as a killer behind. He would fail.
|Carley forgot she wasn't the only girl with a gun.|
My Lee took Lilly with her, knowing it was a crime of passion and desperately trying to put the pieces of their group back together despite the fact it was impossible. The death of Duck and Katjaa was expected by me from the start, since they were all Kenny had, but the way they died was horrible. I never expected Katjaa to commit suicide. Wow. Given the way Omid and Crista show up, I never quite warmed to them as they felt somewhat like replacement goldfish.
Episode Four: This was one of the most emotionally intense episodes of the game as after Katjaa and Duck's death, the loss of Lilly, and the murder of Carley, I was starting to feel like one of the Walking Dead. The unceremonious way Chuck is killed, especially since it's a heroic sacrifice to save Clem, felt like an emotional misstep as he proved himself to be more likable than most of the cast in that moment by far. The character of Molly was a great addition to lighten the mood and I was saddened when she left.
|More than half of these people are dead by the end.|
Episode Five: The ending of the game is really more of an epilogue to Chapter Four than a new adventure like the others. It's mostly chase sequences, zombie-slayings, and the occasional moment of people breaking down. I don't think Kenny died in this version as we never see the body and we see the Walkers moving to eat Ben's body. Still, it seems like a total party kill.
The Stranger was both well-written as well as annoying. He's not a supervillain, just a guy with an ax to grind and nothing to live for but revenge. I think his conversation also should have been more effected by your choices, though, even if I understand he's just looking for someone to blame. Still, the ending was utterly heartbreaking. Telltale couldn't have ended The Walking Dead better. As much as I loved Lee, his death was appropriate and moves the game from really-really good to great.
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